Toxic Family ROLES (Part 1)

so it’s up to me to help everyone!

PREVIOUS: Family ROLES – general

BOOK : “Living With Alcoholism & Addiction: The Elephant in the Room” Meilena Hauslendale


These posts are focused on the alcoholic family, but these Roles can also be applied to other dysfunctional systems.
DEF: Drug = anything used compulsively
Addiction = any substance, person or activity which is used as a numbing agent against inner pain, becomes the only center of someone’s life & which cause chemical changes in the brain – ‘love’, sugar, alcohol, over-exercising, drugs, porn, pot, religion ….

Reality – In any addictive system :
• the addict’s use of their chosen drug(s) is the most important thing in the life of the whole family, & nobody’s allowed to discuss the problem with others outside the home

• addiction in not the only cause of problems, but is combined with :
— the denial of it & the emotional pain everyone’s feeling
— no-one saying what they really feel or think, to themselves or others
— not talking about the “use” & actions that cover it up, blaming others
— providing alibis & undeserved loyalty of the family to the active addict & to the whole toxic system – enabling addictions to continue

TYPICAL emotions of an addictive systemACoA pain
Anger: kids resent the drinking parent, but often transfer that anger to the non-drinking parent for being over-controlling, not providing support & protection, &/or for not leaving the addict

Anxiety: fear because of arguments, neglect & violence, creating constant worry & emotional hyper-vigilance (never relaxed)

Confusion: the drinking parent’s mood swings & unpredictability cause uncertainty & inner turmoil, paralyzing kids who don’t know what to do first, second or next. Also confusing, contradictory messages & rules

Depression: feeling lost & lonely, helpless & hopeless, powerless
Distrust: constant disappointments, broken promises & mistreatment make it hard for kids to trust anyone or develop close bonds with others

Embarrassment: kids are ashamed of the family “secret” & withdraw from other family members, classmates, friends….
Guilt: kids assume they’ve somehow caused the parent’s drinking & chaos

Alcohol-ISM is the organizing principle in a dis-functional family system, says Claudia Black. The active addict becomes the central figure around which everyone else arranges their actions & reactions, usually in a slow insidious process, forming the family mobile.

Members do what they can to bring as much consistency, structure & safety as possible into a family that’s unpredictable & dangerous. They adopt certain roles, while the ‘problem’ becomes the “elephant in the room”, which they all carefully ignore

• In these addictive & other narcissistic homes, with the endless tug-of-war between personalities & the ‘problem’, children’s need for love, support & emotional nurturing is often minimized, made fun of, forgotten altogether – even punished.
With few rolemodels to show how emotions can be expressed positively, children shut down & stuff themselves into the straight-jacket of the Roles.

• Trouble follows when the people or tasks in a subsystem overlap, becoming blurred with those of others (such as role reversal).
Some members may be well-meaning, but the impulse for secrecy prevents anyone from reaching out for help, so the only option they have is a misguided attempts to protect the group by denying or minimizing the stressors.
The need to look “normal” comes out in distorted ways because they don’t know what normal is. They compare their insides with everyone else’s outsides, & always loose by comparison

• At the same time – their worry about & love for the addict, & the all-pervasive fear of change – inevitably cause family members’ to gradual slide into a psychological & social hole. As a parent’s substance abuse progresses, everyone has to play a part in preserving the home.

Toxic Family Roles (TFRs) may seem to be the ‘recipe for living’ in that barely surviving environment, but they actually discourage growth, preventing everyone from responding from their True Self. That makes it hard to give or receive support.
And the Toxic Rules attached to the Roles are unrealistic, & difficult or impossible to obey, which encourages dishonesty & manipulation, to avoid rejection or punishment.

NEXT: Toxic Family ROLES (Part 2)

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